On March 22nd the Chairman of the CRTC, Mr. Jean-Pierre Blais, spoke to members of the Canadian Marketing Association in Toronto about the Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation – CASL. This served to give marketers an idea of what to expect in the near future covering a variety of topics from cybersecurity, the imminent second phase of the CASL law, to the legislation’s scope. We’ve gone ahead and distilled the talk into some key takeaways.

5 New CASL Lessons From the CRTC

CASL is here to stay

In his speech to the CMA, Mr. Blais made reference to the idea that many marketers consider him their enemy, likely speaking to some of the negative feedback the CRTC has received from Canadian marketers about the legislation. The message was clear: the Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation “is here to stay”. In fact, Mr. Blais believes these laws will only get tougher with time as electronic fraud becomes more prevalent.

Not slaying dragons

While the Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation isn’t going anywhere, he was quick to allay some of the fears that the CRTC was going to use CASL to go out and “hunt” well-intentioned businesses. “We don’t go out looking for dragons to slay. We much prefer helping marketers comply with the law than enforcing it after they’ve broken it.”

The purpose of CASL isn’t to stifle business in Canada, and the CRTC claims to be taking a “fact-based” approach to cases, which we understand to mean that the law is not black and white with flagrant violations being viewed differently than those made in good-faith.

CASL is bigger than email

The scope of CASL isn’t limited to emails, we’ve already seen the CRTC utilizing CASL to pursue and dismantle cyber security threats. In December of 2015, the first arrest warrant was served under CASL during the investigation into the “Dorkbot” botnet, a malware program that stole users’ passwords, banking information, and using infected computers to overwhelm targeted servers.

Mr. Blais told marketers to expect more scrutiny of their social media channels’ compliance in the near future. As we near the 2 year anniversary of the law’s introduction, it’s clear that the aim of the CRTC is to clamp down on commercial messaging regardless of the channel it takes place on whether that’s email, text messaging, or social media.

What to expect in “Phase 2”

The second part of CASL is fast approaching: Right of Private Action. As of July 1st, 2017, individuals and organizations will be able to pursue court action against businesses’ they believe to be in violation of CASL. Up until now, all fines and penalties against companies have been brought by the CRTC itself in order to create precedent. Once Right of Private Action comes into effect, consumers themselves will be able to bring action against businesses.

How many consumers will actually sue over CASL? Most of them apparently. A survey we conducted saw 54% of respondents would sue.

“I can understand why people would be nervous” said Mr. Blais, “Once there’s a private right of action, I won’t be able to help you … you’re on your own. Good luck with that. All the more reason to get into compliance as much as you can with us, because it will diminish the risk.”

“Compliance is better than enforcement”

One of the key messages to marketers was that now is the time for businesses to get their house in order. The effort involved in getting compliant with CASL now, greatly outweighs the risks of being in violation. “

[Y]ou don’t want your company’s name splashed all over the news in such a context.”